Supreme Court Fees
JUSTICE OUT OF REACH FOR MANY AS GOVERNMENT INCREASES SUPREME COURT FEES AGAIN
In the 2015/16 financial year, a 5-day hearing in the Supreme Court will cost an individual $9,426 and a corporation $17,683 in filing fees alone, not including any legal fees. It will cost even more for every additional day in court.
Parties will be charged thousands of dollars to file a notice of appeal. Law Society Northern Territory (“Society”) today expressed deep concern about the growing size of these sorts of fees.
In 2013, the government substantially increased Supreme Court fees and introduced a range of new fees which were not previously there. Since then, the yearly increase to fees in the Supreme Court has continued to make access to justice very expensive.
“Litigating in the Supreme Court is becoming an extremely expensive gamble for Territory people and businesses” said Society President Tass Liveris. “The regular increasing of fees will hit individuals and businesses hard. The court’s role in deciding disputes is a cornerstone of our society. The entire community is entitled to access the court, but ongoing fee increases mean that fewer and fewer people will be able to afford to. There is a fundamental problem with the system when access to the court is only for those with the deepest pockets”, Mr Liveris said.
On 17 June 2013, the report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee (“Report”) recommended that evidence-based research be undertaken into how court fees affect court users before further changes in court fee settings are made.
It is not clear whether the government has taken an evidence-based approach to setting and increasing court fees in the Northern Territory. The Society calls upon the Northern Territory government to take heed of the observations made in the Report, which included:
- Citizens are entitled to have their disputes determined by an impartial and independent judicial system; obstacles such as Court fees act to deprive citizens of that right;
- Determinations by a Court may not only provide finality for the parties concerned, but they can provide broader benefits to the community such as establishing precedents and legal principles;
- Provision of court services should not be on a cost recovery basis;
- It is a fundamental element of the maintenance of the rule of law in a civil society that citizens have fair and reasonable access to dispute resolution;
- Substantial increases to Court fees and new fees impact unequally on parties, by giving greater advantage to the party with greater financial resources;
- Increasing fees necessarily create an obstacle to access to justice;
- To treat Courts as revenue raising tools or self funded entities seriously undermine access to justice and ultimately the capacity of the Courts to uphold the rule of law.